While grim and disappointing, news that Richmond Public Schools used “inappropriate practices” to inflate its graduation rates in recent years unfortunately doesn’t surprise us. According to a recent RTD news story by Justin Mattingly, not only did RPS artificially bloat its numbers, the school system employed questionable practices such as rubber-stamping student work, using alternative tests and putting students on individualized education plans to improve graduation rates.
Richmond high schools have the lowest graduation rates of any school system in the state.
The discrepancies were uncovered during a Virginia Department of Education evaluation of all current RPS student transcripts. The transcript reviews were triggered by issues raised in the November 2018 release of an audit that found RPS assigned too many credit hours to several classes, never received school board approval for several courses and awarded high school credits to middle school students. School officials have no idea when the discrepancies first began or how many students were impacted by the artful practices.
“The further we dig in, the more issues we discover,” Tracy Epp, the district’s chief academic officer, told the RTD.
This is just more bad news for RPS and for Superintendent Jason Kamras. The schools chief, who came to Richmond a little more than a year ago, has had to make hard decisions and take decisive actions as he works to change the culture and climate within RPS. Hopefully, ongoing oversight by the Department of Education will continue to ferret out systemic problems. That should help bring about the changes needed. We wish Kamras well in his mission to rebuild RPS into a school system of which Richmond can be proud.
— Robin Beres